Football’s Latest Pointless Rule: The 25-Man Squad List

13 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 31, 2010  |     18

Arsene Wenger is today being quoted as stating that the new Premier League rule reducing squad sizes to 25, as being “a disastrous decision for football and for the players”. When the rule was introduced, the rules stating that Premier League clubs had to have a “Squad List” of just 25, with eight of these being “Home Grown”, it was seen as a great thing for the England football team. The idea was sound in principle, as those sides seen as being full of foreign players, and those teams that were seen to be stockpiling players would have to start to develop more English players, and wouldn’t be able to hoard players. In practice, the reality is very different, and for all the hype behind the introduction of the rule, it’s relatively toothless. In fact as rules go, it’s the on pitch equivalent of the Fit and Proper Persons Test.

For a start, it seems to be aimed at the larger clubs, in terms of keeping their squad sizes down. However, the larger clubs are already used to the rule, as a very similar rule has been in force for the Champions League and the UEFA Cup/Europa League for over a decade. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and all the other regulars have been used to dealing with these limits for longer than the Premier League have even been considering it, and Jose Mourinho even imposed 25 man limits on his own squads when he was at Chelsea. But as far as teams stockpiling players is concerned, it’s not going to stop them. For a start, when the ruling was announced, the vast majority of Premier League Clubs had squads of 25 or less to begin with. Secondly, only three clubs are over the 25 man squad limit – Manchester City (31), Wolverhampton Wanderers (28) and Bolton Wanderers (27). All three have been happy to spend money on extra additions over the summer, with Manchester City spending over £60m on adding three extra members to their squads, Wolves adding four players to their squad, and Bolton adding three. Clearly, the ruling hasn’t stopped those clubs adding to their teams, and unless players are shipped out by the end of the transfer window, you’ll be able to field a team of players employed by Premier League clubs, but ineligible to play for them, even in terms of injury crises. And that’s where the first tough decisions for Owen Coyle, Roberto Mancini and Mick McCarthy come in. They have to decide which players they have to jettison from their squad. Let’s say, for example that Coyle omits Riga Mustapha and Danny Shittu from the squad. In December, Coyle has an injury crisis in central defence – the club will be paying thousands and thousands of pounds per week wages on a World Cup defender, yet will be unable to play him. The club will be able to loan these players to Football League clubs outside the transfer window, but Shittu for one refused at least one loan to the Championship last season.

Secondly, the squad limit is only limited to those players not considered “Under 21”, where the Premier League’s definition of “Under 21” is rather oddly a player born on or after 1st January 1989 (rather than using the beginning of the season as a yardstick). So while West Ham United’s Zavon Hines (born 27th December 1988) and Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll (born 6th January 1989) both turn 22 over the course of the season, and Hines is only 10 days older than Carroll, one is considered an “Under 21”, while the other is not. It also means that clubs can stockpile as many of these players as they like, as they are all considered eligible. The so-called big four have stockpiled young players for years, and this ruling only encourages it. In fact, at the time of writing, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have 108 professional players considered “Under 21” between them, which means that 54% of the players registered to those four clubs were born between January 1989 and July 1993 (you cannot sign professional forms with a club until your seventeenth birthday). In the Premier League as a whole there are at least 287 players*, which relates to 38% of registered professionals in the Premier League. It’s a fair assumption that this will not relate to the matchday squads. That’s a hell of a lot of youngsters not playing football at the most important part of their careers.

And then, we come down to the “Home Grown” rule. The rule was reported in various media outlets that each club has to register 8 players out of 25 as being “Home Grown”. This was seen as being a great fillip to the England team. There was a slight misreporting of the rule. The rule actually states that you can name seventeen players who are not “Home Grown”, and stated no minimum or maximum of “Home Grown” players. So, you can name a 17 man squad with not a single “Home Grown” player. Again, this was seen as cutting back on the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, who both employ a vast majority of foreign players. Again, this has not happened, as 19 Premier League clubs have seventeen non “Home Grown” players. Only Liverpool have more non “Home Grown” players than they can name, and they only have 18 – Roy Hodgson recent signing of Milan Jovanovic taking them over the limit.

In order to not risk the ire of the European Union, the definition of “Home Grown” players has to avoid stating nationality of the player concerned, and to do this, the Premier League has decided on considering a “Home Grown” player as one who spends three years registered to an English or Welsh club (a consideration made with the possibility of Cardiff City or Swansea City joining the League in the future) before their 21st birthday, or three seasons up to and including the season when they turn 21, regardless of their nationality. As you would expect this sees a lot of players from Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland considered “Home Grown”. It also considers Premier League players from fifteen different countries (including 3 Frenchmen and Nigerians, as well as two each from Cameroon, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA), as well as a number of English capped players born abroad and English born players who have chosen to represent nations of their parents or grandparents birth. One English International who isn’t considered as “Home Grown” is Owen Hargreaves, who is considered to have been trained in Canada and Germany.

For those interested, despite Wenger’s claims, Arsenal only have 20 players they need to name, in their squad, of which only 12 are not considered “Home Grown”. Of the 8 that are considered “Home Grown”, they include players from Brazil, Cameroon, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Only Jay Simpson is English. For those wondering how their Premier League club fares under the new ruling, here is the state of each squad at the time of writing:

Team Squad
Not Home
Arsenal 20 12 8 26
Aston Villa 23 7 16 10
Birmingham City 22 6 16 4
Blackburn Rovers 23 14 9 21
Blackpool 16 2 14 4
Bolton Wanderers 27 10 17 6
Chelsea 22 17 5 26
Everton 22 13 9 7
Fulham 25 12 13 9
Liverpool 24 18 6 31
Manchester City 31 16 15 25
Manchester United 25 12 13 25
Newcastle United 21 5 16 16
Stoke City 25 6 19 5
Sunderland 25 12 13 8
Tottenham Hotspur 25 11 11 23
West Bromwich Albion 22 10 12 7
West Ham United 22 11 11 13
Wigan Athletic 22 15 7 8
Wolverhampton Wanderers 28 11 17 13

“Squad List” refers to the number of players eligible for the Squad List. Numbers in bold are where the club currently exceeds the maximum allowed.

For a ruling that on the face of it is designed to protect the England team, and force clubs to cut back on their numbers of players they employ, it seems to be a ruling that is not only toothless on both fronts, but also could backfire, as clubs stockpile young players on a greater scale, but adding more talented foreigners to their ranks, so that they can be considered “Home Grown” in the future. All in all, it doesn’t appear to affect current players, which explains why the PFA sanctioned, rather than condemned the rule. After all, the ruling only currently affects four clubs, all of whom who have added to their squads over the summer, and the players left behind will still be paid, and available to be loaned elsewhere. It’s almost as though the Premier League clubs have designed and ratified a rule to benefit rather than hinder themselves. After all, it is the Premier League clubs that have to create and vote on their own rules.

* For some clubs, identifying which “Under 21” players are professionals, and which are academy players not registered as professionals is trickier than others. When in doubt the player is not considered to be a professional, so the “Under 21” figures may be a little conservative.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • August 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Football’s Latest Pointless Rule: The 25-Man Squad List « Scissors Kick

    […] Football’s Latest Pointless Rule: The 25-Man Squad List Exequias de un emperador romano, Domenico Zampieri “Arsene Wenger is today being quoted as stating that the new Premier League rule reducing squad sizes to 25, as being “a disastrous decision for football and for the players”. When the rule was introduced, the rules stating that Premier League clubs had to have a ‘Squad List’ of just 25, with eight of these being ‘Home Grown’, it was seen as a great thing for the England football team.” (twohundredpercent) […]

  • August 6, 2010 at 7:12 pm


    Great article, much better than the BBC’s pathetic attempts to look at the rule. It may look pointless now, but is it likely that this rule is only an initial one that might lead to a stricter rule in the future? Or is that wishful thinking?

  • August 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    GT Chelsea

    Hey, where do i get the actual squads because when i go to Wikipedia, the show arsenal having like 26 and Manchester city having 37 I just want to know where you are getting your numbers from

  • August 11, 2010 at 8:25 pm


    The actual 25 man squads? I don’t know, technically, they don’t have to name them until Friday (I think).

    As for where I got my number from – old fashioned research, trawling through each club’s website for dates of birth, nationality, etc, and various sources for dates they were signed (for the developmental rule), ranging from club sites, reference books, searching news sites, etc.

  • August 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    GT Chelsea

    another thing do under 21 players not count towards the 25 man roster

  • August 11, 2010 at 10:32 pm


    No, they can have as many Under 21 players as they want, as well as the 25 man roster.

  • August 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm


    How does this relate to Welsh players? Or to Cardiff – if it got promoted? Does it mean born in England, or born in the UK?

    Because it could irreckably damage both Welsh-born players and most definitely Welsh clubs playing in the English league. They’ll have a nightmare trying to sign eight decent Welsh players.

    p.s. I’m English born who routes for Welsh teams through having lived there once! I’ll never forget the 2-1 game against Italy!

  • August 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm


    The teams only have to nae their squads at end August.

  • August 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    GT Chelsea

    So that means already world class players such as Mario Balotelli, Pedro, and Alexandre Pato can be in a squad without having to worry to make the cut

  • August 12, 2010 at 6:47 pm


    @Duude – It relates to players registered to English or Welsh clubs for at least three years before their 21st birthday, so Cardiff or Swansea would be fine.

  • August 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm


    The powers that be should stop meddling.The footall associations are made up of know nothing, half wit old men who are desperate to justify their own exitences by coming up with very pointless, cvery ounter productive rules. This is all for England, is it, and international football. Well international football is pants compared to the premiership and the champions league. They play too many internationals as it is and England are especially boring. And all for a bunch of people wo only follow football during the World Cup but want to monopolise the agenda and dictate to clubs about who to employ and when and for what purpose. All so as we might see a modest improvement in a team that plays two mini tournaments every four years and then a bunch of meaningless friendlies and mismatched qualifiers.

  • September 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm


    Bit confused. You say it affects no one. Then Liverpool announce a 21 man squad. And Villa announce a 22 man squad that included 4 who are in reality still youths but just over the age limit. Probably there is more to come. Where did you get you figures from?

  • December 22, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    The Monday Profile: John Ruddy | The Two Unfortunates

    […] and a personal level and cannot help one’s development in either respect. Debate over the new 25-man squad ruling for Premier League clubs has led to renewed accusations of big clubs ‘stockpiling’ players – […]

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